NIGERIAN INFECTIOUS DISEASES SOCIETY ADVISORY ON ONGOING LASSA FEVER OUTBREAK
Nigeria is currently going through another spike in the number of reported Lassa fever cases all over the country, with the majority of cases reported in Ondo, Edo, and Bauchi States. Cumulatively, about 211 confirmed cases of Lassa fever were reported in January 2022, with 40 deaths, giving a case fatality rate of 19.0%.
Lassa is endemic to most of West Africa, with Nigeria experiencing large outbreaks over the past 4 years, with peaks often reported in the dry weather months of December-February.
About Lassa Fever
Lassa fever is caused by the Lassa virus, with the rodent Mastomys natalensis (multi-mammate rat) serving as the reservoir of the virus. It initially produces undifferentiated febrile illness, characterized by fever, headaches, body weakness, joint and muscle pains, vomiting, diarrhoea, cough, chest pains, and in the most severe forms, may present with inexplicable bleeding from puncture sites, various body openings and into the skin.
Transmission of the virus can occur via the following channels:
- Direct or indirect contact with urine, faeces, saliva, or blood of infected rats
- Ingesting foods contaminated with urine, faeces, saliva, or blood of infected rats
- Person-to-person transmission through contact with blood, urine, faeces, vomitus, and other body fluids of an infected person
The following categories of health care staff face the greatest risk of getting infected with Lassa fever:
- Unsuspecting health care workers who provide care to patients without strict adherence to standard infection prevention and control (IPC) practices
- Cleaners and waste disposal personnel without appropriate protective gear.
- Laboratory staff who are exposed to blood samples of infected patients without appropriate protective measures.
- Medical or support staff who prepare and or handle dead bodies of infected patients without appropriate precautions
The Nigerian Infectious Diseases Society (NIDS) commends the response of the NCDC to the current outbreak and calls on health care workers to strictly observe standard and transmission-based precautions in handling patients and body fluids, maintain a high index of suspicion for the illness, and report any suspected case to the designated officer within their facilities.
Healthcare facilities, particularly tertiary facilities, are required to:
- Train and designate staff who can provide care to patients with suspected Lassa fever
- Establish protocols for referral, and reporting.
- Review institutional preparedness to care for suspected Lassa fever patients
About the NIDS
The NIDS was established to advance the prevention and control of infectious diseases in Nigeria and our members actively support the NCDC and other relevant ministries, departments and agencies engaged in emergency preparedness and response to infectious diseases in the country.
For more resources on Lassa fever, kindly check out the NCDC site: https://ncdc.gov.ng/diseases/info/L
NIDS video on Lassa fever case management for healthcare workers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVIlbrQImXc